The players of Lancashire & Cheshire AFL outfit Flixton Juniors First have contributed to the coronavirus outbreak by raising £280 for the NHS.
The open age team have responded admirably to the cancellation of the amateur football season by insisting that rather than returning money that is paid to the club for matchday and training costs, the fees are redirected to this worthy cause.
Flixton were eighth in Division B when the season was halted, and not out of relegation trouble. But the club had put together a four-game unbeaten run in the league to build a five-point cushion between them and the bottom two.
With two games in hand and a much superior goal difference to the sides below, Flixton were well placed to secure survival and had even taken unbeaten league leaders Parrswood Celtic to a penalty shootout in the Whitehead Cup.
However, once it became apparent that the season’s fixtures would not be fulfilled, Flixton’s players displayed their compassion and care for their health service by generously giving their subs to the NHS.
Jordan Casey is the Assistant Manager of Flixton, and also plays for the club; it’s very much a family affair, as the club is managed by his Dad, Shay.
The 28-year-old explained how the club and its players rallied to support the health service.
He said: “We pay a £35 a month standing order which all of the players pay. That covers all our training, all matchdays, referee costs, and everything that comes in that. The lads get training gear, tracksuit tops. Everybody is happy to pay this each month.
“Obviously when coronavirus hit, the league was cancelled about halfway through March, so we thought as a gesture of goodwill to our lads, we’d offer about £20 back, to say we’ve had £15 of training and matches so far, so we thought it’d be a nice bit of goodwill to give them all £20 back.
“One of the lads actually came back straight away and said could we donate his £20 to charity, which we thought was a great idea. So we put a message out to the other lads, and the others said the same, we’ll give it to charity. We agreed on the NHS and it ended up as a £280 donation.”
There’s clearly a deep spirit within the Flixton ranks; although the team have been playing for the club for just two seasons, the players have been together for much longer. The move was also part of the vision of Shay and Jordan to bring players through from junior, right the way to open age football.
Jordan explained: “I’ve been playing open age football for over 10 years now. We started with a local team that we moved straight into from junior football. At the age of 16, there was a group of our u-16 team – about 14 of us – wanted to go open age rather than youth team football. We started as kids in an adult league and it’s something me and my Dad looked to carry on. My brother has just turned 21 and when all his mates turned 16, we took them into open age.
“They played for the team we were playing for at the time, and about four years ago, we moved to Flixton.
“The team we were at didn’t have any junior team, it was a standalone, open age team. We moved to Flixton where a few of the lads, including my younger brother, played there as juniors. It was good for him and my Dad to give back, as an open age team.
“We originally started off on our own as a standalone group of lads just wanting to play football and get into a league and have a bit of a laugh together.
“The club has been great. They have around 28 teams including juniors and women’s team. There are other plans that when the other lads get to 16, they can look at training with open age team or looking at a reserve team, and there are big hopes with the club that we can build it the same way I did 10 years ago.”
And how are the players responding to the challenges of lockdown? Doing their best to remain connected with fellow teammates but, like much of the amateur football community, the absence of games is being felt.
Jordan added: “We have a Whatsapp group with all the lads, trying to keep fit, posting our runs in there, but ultimately we’re just missing football.”
Flixton though, can be proud of its players and their contribution to the NHS in response to the crisis.